Susan P. Blevins was born in England, lived 26 years in Italy, and has now resided in the USA for the past 23 years, first in Taos, NM, and currently in Houston, TX. While living in Rome she had a weekly column in an international, English-language newspaper, writing about food and restaurant reviews primarily, though not exclusively. Since living in the USA she has written pieces on gardens and gardening for N. American and European publications, and she is now writing stories of her life and travels, and gaining traction in various literary publications. She loves reading, writing, playing the piano, classical music, cats and stimulating conversation.
PARALLELS by Susan P. Blevins
Painting and writing have much in common. Sitting in front of a blank white canvas is no different from staring at a blank white page (or screen). I had a painting mentor years ago who told me that the important thing to remember when beginning a new painting is to dirty the canvas as quickly as possible. Take a neutral paint and sketch out a general plan of what the painting is going to be. It can be grotesque and a total mess, but the canvas once dirtied no longer intimidates, and, liberated from inhibitions, we feel free to launch ourselves into the adventures of the creative process. I go one step further when starting a new painting. I raise my hand and bless the canvas, and ask that I may continue God’s eternal act of creation in my new work.
When sitting down at the computer, or with my notebook, to start writing a new piece, an essay, a story, or perhaps a poem, it is essential for me to pull the metaphoric cork from the bottle and let the contents, which have been bubbling around in my head, come spilling out onto the page. I think it’s important to have a general idea of the schema that the writing should follow, but the main thing is to go with the flow and not to stop for every little uncertainty or the pursuit of the perfect word. That can be taken care of later on during the editing process. Dirty the page! The principal pursuit of the artist, for me at least, has to be authentic expression from the heart. Too many poets today, it seems, get wound up in the mechanics of the poem, and allow their intellectual strivings to come between their initial creative impulse and its subsequent expression. If the artist expresses authentic emotions, they will connect with the viewer or reader, who will in turn identify with the art, and feel it in their own heart, and in this way the audience becomes a participant in the creative process.
People often ask artists what we want to write about or paint, and we can reply quite simply, “life.” The fuller and richer our own lives, and the richer our experiences, the more we will have to write about. The more we hone our powers of observation, the more we shall be able to express in brief but vivid terms our experiences and feelings, and describe in living detail the characters populating our work.
I like to think that when we are caught up in the red-hot, seething energy of creativity, we are continuing where God left off. It seems unlikely that there was one big bang of creation and that was it. Creation must surely be an incremental, continuous process, taking place whenever anyone has a genuine urge in the heart to express an emotion, or to make an observation of our times. Artists of any genre have the task and responsibility to express the zeitgeist of the age in which they live, for it is not just the spirit of the age they are expressing, but their own spirit also. We are all inevitably children of our time and place.
Whether it be music, the written word, or visual art, all very much reflect the energy of our societies, and artists alone are able to express what many are feeling but are unable to articulate. I also believe that the role of the artist is rather to raise more questions than to give comfortable answers .
Listening to the music of Webern, Shostakovich, and Schoenberg, we clearly hear the horrors of World War II and the dissolution of an ordered society. In the same way, the art of Egon Schiele, Edvard Munch, Kandinsky and Gustav Klimt reflect the breakdown of society in western Europe prior to World War I, presenting the perfect canvas on which Hitler, a frustrated artist himself, was later able to paint in broad and heavy strokes, a deadly and demented picture of world domination, illustrating his own imbalance and that of Germany at that time. He stepped into the historical moment as a physical manifestation of the German zeitgeist between the two world wars, even though he came from Austria.
I further believe that not only do artists have the responsibility to express the inexpressible, they assume the role of midwives, tasked with bringing beauty and joy into the world. The world needs healing from the violence and corruption which have always swept through our societies like a wild brush fire, and through beauty and joy artists can inspire humanity to evolve to new heights of brotherly love, and to build a more unselfish, compassionate society. They can show us the brutal truth of life, and thus force us to acknowledge it, to finally face our denial, and they can help to heal it through pouring joy, beauty and love into our societies. Music is surely the universal language of the heart, balm for the soul, capable of healing our pain, relieving our sadness, increasing our joy, and providing communication between people who do not share a common spoken language. The important thing is to encourage people to participate in the exalted but humble act of creation, be it painting, composing, writing, or building a beautiful garden. The creative arts could be called a sublimation of the physical act of procreation
Life is all about where we choose to place our focus, and by focusing their energies on love, beauty and truth, artists contribute to their manifestation in the world for the benefit of all. Utopia is a worthy goal, and idealists are too few and far between.